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Tallah Drummer Max Portnoy Discusses Debut Album "Matriphagy," Work On A Second Album And Performing In A Penitentiary

It can't be easy being the child of a metal star with aspirations of your own. Surely there's always the desire to step out of the shadows and make a name for yourself, but in Tallah, Max Portnoy may already be on to a winner.

With their debut album, "Matriphagy" out now and earning a lot of attention, Tallah has already forged a reputation for stunning visuals and a musical sound which can't be pigeonholed so easily. To find out more about this unique project, I spoke with Max about the record, the decision to perform a gig inside a penitentiary and how the band is already close to finishing their sophomore album!

Diamond Oz: First of all congratulations on the release of your new album, "Matriphagy." It's certainly an interesting title. What made you choose it?

Max Portnoy: When we were brainstorming ideas for an album title, we wanted something that summed up the entire concept as a whole. We read through the lyrics to see if anything caught our attention, and while there were some really cool names, we didn't find exactly what we were looking for. I started talking with Justin about words or phrases involving motherhood or maternity and we liked the idea of going along those lines with the album title. We were spitting out names and searching online for anything that had to do with that and that was when Justin was asking me to look up motherhood with insects, so I searched up motherhood with spiders, and stumbled upon the word Matriphagy, which is when the Mother is killed by her offspring. That was exactly what we were looking for, as that sums up exactly what happens in the concept.

Oz: This being your debut album, what themes did you feel was most important to tackle lyrically, given that it's your introduction to the world?

Max: I can't speak too much on the lyrical content as that is Justin's department and I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth. He handles the vocals and lyrics while I handle all the music and instrumentals. But I know when we began working on the songs on Matriphagy, Justin wanted to do a concept, and the only thing I told him to do with it was to "make it dark", so he took that and rolled with it to the extreme, which I love. The story is fiction obviously, even though there is small hints of truth and realism behind it since I know Justin was going through a tough period with his mom at the time and was just frustrated with their relationship at that moment of time, so Justin took some real life emotions he was feeling and put them on a fictitious character and pushed it to the extreme. Obviously Justin never wanted to kill his mom or anything, that type of stuff was all just exaggerations to make the story more dramatic and intense.

Oz: Already Tallah has gained a reputation for visually fascinating music videos. How important is aesthetics to the band and will there be any more videos to come from "Matriphagy"?

Max: I really love working on and pushing the Tallah aesthetic throughout all our forms of content. Whether that be our music itself, the music videos or even just the teaser videos we put out on our own, I like it to all fit the vibe and theme because it helps make Tallah feel like one big immersive, artistic experience rather than just a couple dudes playing music. Since our music and lyrical themes are very dark, we needed an aesthetic to match it. That's why alot of people mention the horror genre when watching our videos or seeing our posts. I take alot of inspiration from creepy, cryptic creepypastas that you can find online. I always feel like they give off such an unsettling vibe and I love recreating those types of visuals when we're putting out content.

Oz: Obviously every band has been affected in one way or another by the pandemic. How badly has Tallah's plans been hit by the crisis?

Max: It really sucks for us considering this was our debut release and we can't really go out there and tour and play shows. We've been making the most of it though and keeping busy. There are about 6 music videos for some of the songs on the album and we do plan on putting out more, so we're able to keep busting out content for our fans to keep them invested since we can't actually get out there for them. We also just filmed a live release show with Hate5six where we playthrough the entire album start to finish. It's up on the Hate5six youtube channel or on his website if you want to check it out. We plan on keeping ourselves occupied with content in these times while we wait to be able to tour and play shows again.

Oz: You recently performed in the Willow Glen State Penitentiary, which has a very colourful history indeed. Why the decision to record a performance there and how did it feel being in such eerie surroundings?

Max: We wanted to do something a bit different than the typical venue show. We figured if were bringing all our gear and equipment somewhere, why not change it up and do it in a cooler setting? It helped push our aesthetic too, being in an old, rundown location. It made the live show feel almost like a mix between a show and a music video. We still recorded everything live in one take to give it the live show feel and look but we then had the pleasure of adding in tons of extra creepy visuals and transitions which was fun to mess with.

Oz: Releasing your debut through Earache Records is something which a lot of metal bands dream about. How has the relationship with the label been so far?

Max: It's been absolutely amazing working with them! They really believe in what we're doing and have given us such an incredible boost with this album release. They've pushed us more than some other labels push their bands honestly, and we are totally grateful for that and to have such a killer team working with us.

* I read that you've already nearly finished work on a second album. Do you have a title for the record yet and how has the new music progressed from the debut?

Max: Yeah, we actually are pretty much done with the next album. There are things I still want to tweak and keep working on but the songs are there, and they're killer. We're really looking forward to tracking these in the future once we feel like Matriphagy has had enough time to say what it needs to say. We do have a title for it already, but that is classified until we get closer. The music on the next record definitely evolves and progresses from what is on Matriphagy, but it is still the signature Tallah sound that everyone knows, we just don't want it to be Matriphagy 2.0 because what would be the point in that? We want to build off of the sound we established and put it in a new light, which I think people are going to be stoked about.

Oz: You've continually been labelled a nu metal band. Given that back in the day, very few bands embraced the tag, how do you feel about it?

Max: It's whatever to me honestly. I'm not a fan of labels, I think it forces people to put you in a box, and then new listeners will go into your music with a predetermined assumption of how you will sound, and I hate that idea. Let the music speak for itself and don't force a label on it. We do draw influences from nu metal along with some other subgenres of metal like hardcore and stuff, but we dont sound like either of those. If you put us side by side with other current nu metal bands, we don't sound anything like them, and it's the same as putting us up other hardcore bands. We don't fit in anywhere honestly, and that's why I hate putting a label on us.

Oz: How far do you see the band going in the future? We've discussed work on a second album already, but do you feel the current pandemic could stunt the growth of Tallah and how far can the band be pushed creatively?

Max: The pandemic won't hold us back at all. The band is going to keep going for years to come and nothing will stop us. There is honestly no reason to stop if this is what we love doing. I've already had discussions with Justin about our plans for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th albums and so on. We even have music video ideas for future songs. Matriphagy is just the start to something that'll last a long time, and it won't be the last thing people hear from us.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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